When asking the CIOs of most organisations these days what is currently on their radar, besides the usual talk of technology refreshes or ERP upgrades, the trend increasingly taking centre stage is mobility.
A full feature on enterprise mobility can be found in the Solutions World section of CNME this month, but something that is yet to catch on — particularly in the Middle East — is the concept of an enterprise app store.
Applications that run on mobile devices are a vital ingredient to achieve a truly mobile enterprise. An enterprise app store basically resembles a public app store like Apple’s App Store, but is built particularly for an enterprise to manage corporate-sanctioned apps on PCs and mobile devices.
Mobile apps can be grouped into two categories. The first is generic apps created for the consumer market or generic enterprise apps created by vendors, like SAP, Salesforce.com and Oracle for enterprises. These apps are not custom built or customised for the enterprise. They range from apps from airlines that help the travelling employees, to apps that access SaaS applications.
The second category is custom apps developed for a particular enterprise. Enterprises create custom apps to support their particular business needs and to create a competitive advantage. Custom apps can be broken down into two groups. First are apps developed by vendors for a wide range of enterprises that are then customised for a particular enterprise. Then there are custom apps just for the enterprise, like adapting an existing business application to a mobile device.
Organisations will develop apps that follow into both of these categories and that their employees depend on. However, enterprises need to figure out how they will distribute, secure and control the apps their employees use before they get out of control — the answer is through an enterprise app store.
According to recent research from Gartner, a quarter of enterprises will have one of these by 2017.
“Apps downloaded from public app stores for mobile devices disrupt today’s IT security, application and procurement strategies,” says Bhavish Sood, Research Director, Gartner.
“Bring-your-own-application (BYOA) has become as important as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) in the development of a comprehensive mobile strategy, and the trend toward BYOA has begun to affect desktop and Web applications as well. Enterprise app stores promise at least a partial solution.”
However, the greater control that enterprise app stores promise is only possible if it is widely adopted.
Typical security and procurement policies, which limit application choice, can doom the effort to failure, Sood says.
“IT security, application, procurement and sourcing professionals must work together to successfully apply the app store concept to their enterprises,” he says. “When successful, they can increase the value delivered by the application portfolio and reduce the associated risks, licence fees and administration expenses.”
Whether the Middle East reflects Gartner’s global prediction will depend on how common the enterprise issuance of smartphones and tablets becomes in the region, Sood adds.
“More organisations in the region issuing company-owned devices will eventually lead to more enterprise app stores. For now, they are in the very early stages of implementation.
“We continue to see demand for apps that extend typical business applications like sales force automation (CRM), workflows and approvals, but device costs and security challenges are keeping them away from multi-app deployment scenarios.”